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How Latency Hinders Hybrid and Cloud Production

CNN+ Live Operations Manager Ben Ratner discusses how even "ultra-low latency" complicates hybrid (cloud and on-prem) workflows in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2022.

Learn more about cloud and REMI production at Streaming Media East 2022.

Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Tim Siglin: Ben, you mentioned one of the issues that you have with the cloud is latency. Can you go into a bit of a detail there because I think we all do. And you mentioned TriCaster, vMix. When I used to build out corporate boardroom for Ernst & Young and other companies, they'd say, "Oh, we can use the TriCaster output to do the image magnification." "No, you can't, 'cause there's a three-frame buffer."

Ben Ratner: It can, but it ain't gonna be pretty.

Tim Siglin: Yeah. And if you wave here, it's gonna wave here half a second later. But when you move totally to the cloud latencies do become a really big deal.

Ben Ratner: Latency is an issue for a couple of reasons. At the very core of it, you have people in different locations and it's that traditional, "Hey, it's a delay before I hear you and a delay before you hear me back." So from a pure content level, that's an issue. But the other major, major issue I have with latency is on the control room side, which is ontercom. You have not just your talent talking, but also everyone behind the scenes, which means things like if you have a speaker on, everyone's gonna have their speaker on at a different time and WebRTC and any other protocol, can't cancel out all of those speakers and all of those people talking at the same time. Even two people in the same room will be sending signals at slightly different times.

I envision a world in this cloud and even a remote world, even if you're hybrid, where you have a on-prem control room, but people out in the field, you're never gonna be able to use speakers ever again in a control room, if you want people not to hate themselves and wanna not work for you because they keep hearing echoes in the headsets. And I don't know of any legitimate way to make that work just 'cause of how physics and internet speeds work--latency of people talking and hearing things at different times on different devices, I think it's gonna be one of the long-term problems that is gonna be very, very hard to solve because ultra-low latency isn't enough, a quarter second is way too much when you're dealing with just people talking in Intercom.

Tim Siglin: I come out of a video conferencing background too. So, for me, 250 milliseconds is the upper end that we could deal with. Now, it's interesting. I've heard of a lot of small productions actually just doing a conference call using an audio bridge because they have that synchronized very, very low-latency phone conversation between them. Is that just a stopgap until we can get the IP issues dealt with?

Ben Ratner: It's a stop gap, 'cause even with that, first of all, you're physically muting and unmuting and you don't have all the things like different party lines and the ability to individually talk to people in the same way. So it'll get the job done. And during COVID it got a lot done for a lot of people. But fact of the matter is, it takes electrical signals a certain amount of time to get from place to place, outside of a string and paper cups, I'm not sure if there's any magical way to get that low enough to be the true, real time of a physical control room with everyone on-prem together.

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